Last updated June 01, 2020
When thinking about domestic violence survivors, data privacy isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for most people. But here at Empowering Women NFP, it’s always a top priority for us, and we spend a lot of time understanding the impact that our use of technology can have on the privacy of the survivors we work with.
Understanding what real data privacy looks like can be complicated. As we move ever more rapidly into a technology-driven world, domestic violence programs are under increasing pressure to join in and adopt new technologies. There are many benefits to this – it means that survivors have new ways to find help that are often easier (and in some ways safer) than making a phone call or showing up at the front door, and it means the administrative work we have to do can become more streamlined, giving us more time to spend helping those we are there to assist. But as with everything related to domestic violence, there are major risks involved in the use of technology that we must be consider and minimize before moving forward.
Why is data privacy so important? When survivors seek help, they take huge personal risks. If their abusive partner finds out they’ve asked for help, the abuse often escalates. They also face the possibility of harmful social and economic repercussions, like housing discrimination, job loss, and exclusion from their family or community. The information victims share with the domestic violence programs is often incredibly sensitive, and if others gain access to it, it can be used to cause further harm to them. This is why the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) requires such stringent confidentiality practices – well beyond what the more widely known HIPAA practices require.
When anyone uses cloud-based services, they are essentially storing the information they are collecting at an outside location. And it is standard practice for most cloud-based companies to have access to the data that is being stored. This means that if they choose, they can go in and read all of the information stored on the service. We are very careful to store sensitive information with physical and digital barriers. Physical information is kept under lock and key, with multiple layers of physical barriers. Information that is digital are stored in a separate password-protected device that is owned by the company.
Last updated June 01, 2020
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Empowering Women NFP
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